A Head Start
By the time Rachel Greenberg (BBA ’20) and Teddy Weber (BBA ’20) begin their jobs on Wall Street after graduating this spring, they’ll be wandering the Big Apple like native New Yorkers. After all, getting to know the place was in some ways part of their finance education at the Wisconsin School of Business.
Student treks to the city, networking opportunities with alumni, coaching from professionals in their field, and on-campus preparation about what it’s like to work on Wall Street are just some of the career pathway services available to WSB undergraduate students. Many of these initiatives are funded through philanthropic gifts aimed at ensuring Business Badgers get the career resources they need to succeed.
“We’re a very high-touch program,” says Jamie Macias (BA ’02), director of career services for the Wisconsin BBA Program. “There are a lot of one-on-one relationships with our students, and we keep in touch with our students when they become alumni. Then they come back to recruit the next batch of Badgers.
“It’s very much what I call the ‘circle of life,’” Macias added.
A generous gift created the BBA Career Development Fund in Spring 2019, providing further resources to BBA students so they can pursue experiential learning opportunities, receive travel stipends for company visits, and participate in internships that match their interest, regardless of compensation.
“We want to create access for everyone,” Macias says.
The BBA Career Development Fund and other related initiatives have a proven track record for students studying finance. It’s the largest undergraduate major at WSB, with more than 1,200 students. It’s also extremely competitive.
“Key employers in finance are trying to front-run one another for talent and, as a result, want to interview our students even earlier,” says Erwan Quintin, U.S. Bank Professor of Banking and chair of the Department of Finance, Investment, and Banking. “As soon as they join our School, we need to make our students aware of opportunities to prepare for the job market.”
In addition to the Career Development Fund, Badgers in Finance—an exclusive professional network for UW–Madison alumni who work in financial services—offers support to undergraduates studying finance and investment banking by providing mentoring, networking opportunities, and industry insight.
This support makes a difference. In the 2015-16 academic year, 126 BBA finance students reported having an internship; two years later, the number rose to 184.
In a trip funded through Badgers in Finance, Greenberg and Weber traveled to New York as freshmen to visit banks and learn about career opportunities. This led to internships in the city after their sophomore and junior years.
— Jamie Macias (BA ’02)
Director of Career Services, Wisconsin BBA Program
“The trek did a good job of helping you see yourself in banks of different sizes and what cultures you could see yourself fitting in to,” Greenberg says.
In their sophomore year, another New York trek included an invitation to meet and network with alumni at a Badgers in Finance event at Carnegie Hall.
“There were probably 100 alumni there,” Weber says. “It’s incredible they welcomed students.”
Philanthropic gifts provide resources to help students prepare for internship interviews, with alumni often lending a hand. Some of those internship opportunities are created through the generosity of alumni. Ricky Sandler (BBA ’91), founder of Eminence Capital, launched a sophomore hedge fund internship program that has expanded to other firms. Weber interned at Eminence Capital after his sophomore year.
Philanthropic resources also support curriculum development to help students gain the technical knowledge they need to succeed. Online modules help students explore career pathways by providing information about the best way to acquire specific skills and what organizations they can join to support their classroom learning.
“There is a lot of energy in the finance sphere at WSB right now, and we have our alumni to thank for providing much of it,” Quintin says.
Greenberg and Weber were among 15 UW undergraduates who interned at Goldman Sachs last summer, and both received full-time offers. Greenberg saw firsthand how preparation paid off when full-time offers came to her group of interns. In a competitive group that included four interns from Ivy League schools, Greenberg was among those who received an offer.
“People always say that Wisconsin students come in strong, polite, and ready to work, that we have a strong base of financial knowledge,” she says. “We really do hold our own.”
Success in enhanced career pathways for finance majors serves as a proof of concept for further efforts. Investments in career services will allow us to build on this first pilot, developing similar efforts in other disciplines like marketing and expanding relationships with employers as the field rapidly evolves in the digital environment. Philanthropy also supports grassroots efforts led by students. Clubs representing students in actuarial science, risk and insurance, and consulting received funding from the BBA Career Development Fund. The Women in Business club received funding for a trip to Atlanta to visit companies, including Home Depot and Coca-Cola.
What many of these opportunities have in common is the Business Badger connection.
“That’s been the secret sauce,” Macias says. “We have a unique relationship with our alumni and donors who are always looking to be mobilized in support of our students. Faculty, students, and alumni—it’s like a family that has worked together to make it happen. You can’t do it if you’re missing one of those pieces.”